Like many of my conservative and libertarian friends, on Election Day found me with cautious optimism. I hoped that the combination of Obama's awful record on the economy, individual freedoms, lack of transparency and more, along with Romney's accomplishments and moderate record as governor of Massachusetts would be enough to secure a Republican win. As we all now know, our hopes did not pan out. Though our nation is still divided almost 50/50 as to what we, the people, believe is the right course, on the electoral map, Obama and the Democrats won big. Republicans failed.
For days, I have been discussing this with other conservatives, libertarians and liberal friends. What happened? What - if anything - can those of us who want small government and fiscal responsibility do? How do we combat the forces of a primarily liberal MSM, union support, immigration changes, and for some reason, the personal inability of so many Republican candidates to "sell" themselves in contrast to Democrats?
We need to address as many of these issues as we can and look for solutions - with deep focus on the liberal press and how to combat it. Still - there is something that Republicans can do immediately that I believe would help enormously in winning elections. They can extend to the social arena what they do to the fiscal side: freedom of choice and the right of all Americans to live their lives as they believe is best.
John Hinderaker, of Powerline blog fame, is a conservative attorney in Minneapolis. No one can deny his commitment to conservatism. Yet, Hinderaker realizes that without this change, wins for Republicans will shrink and no turn around is possible.
If questioned about abortion, conservative candidates should focus on the areas where liberal positions are extreme. Thus, for example, a candidate could say:
I have always been opposed to abortion on moral grounds. Frankly, however, my opinion isn’t very relevant since the Supreme Court has held that there is a constitutional right to abortion. But there are a few areas that are still open for discussion. One of them is infanticide. It seems to me that no matter how we feel about abortion, we ought to be able to agree that babies that are born alive shouldn’t be killed. And yet the Democrats haven’t been willing to join us in opposing infanticide. President Obama voted against a bill that would have outlawed infanticide when he was a state senator in Illinois, and most Democrats, including my opponent, are in favor of partial-birth abortion, which is nothing but infanticide under a different name. So I suggest you ask my opponent: is he willing to buck his party and come out against infanticide, including partial birth abortion?
If Republicans consistently answer questions about abortion in this manner, or something similar, reporters will stop asking them. One more thing: no politician should ever try to instruct voters on gynecology or obstetrics. Just don’t do it. Ever.
Gay marriage is often lumped together with abortion, but in reality, it is a very different issue. For one thing, while there is no specifically conservative case for abortion, there is a conservative case for gay marriage. For another, while popular opinion is turning away from abortion, it is rapidly falling in line behind gay marriage. In my view, there is little reason to stand in front of this particular locomotive. It is true that the family is in crisis and our civilization may well be going down the drain, but not because of gay marriage; rather, because close to half of all American children are now born to unmarried women.
Republicans can take a big-tent approach to gay marriage by emphasizing process. If the time comes when a majority of people want to recognize gay marriage, so be it. At the end of the day, voters can define marriage in whatever way they choose. Republicans, meanwhile, can unite in opposing any resolution of the issue by judicial fiat. We can say: some Republicans are for gay marriage, some Republicans are against it; but we all agree that the issue should be resolved by the people and their elected representatives. While the party takes a hands-off approach, private groups, churches and others, can try to influence public opinion in one direction or the other, a task that is better suited to them than to politicians.
I do believe that a critical reason why Romney lost was because of how Democrats were able to paint the Republican party. Liberals that I know - intelligent, thinking people - really are convinced that Republicans want to focus on making abortion illegal and on continuing to battle against equal rights for gays. Although many of these liberals are concerned about our economy - these private choices trump the latter.
Even if you are a social conservative, I must ask you this. Is it superior for Republicans to remain "pure" on these social issues - and continue to lose elections to candidates like Obama, with his record? Or - would it be better for social conservatives to be able to fight for what they believe in their community and houses of worship - and have politicians like Romney and Ryan leading us?